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kite v board

olympics

kite v board

Windsurfer Steve Bodner gives his take on the new Kite ruling.

Lots of mixed opinions flying around these past few days regarding the decision to include kite boarding in the 2016 Olympics at the expense of windsurfing.
Obviously – a very happy crowd here in San Francisco with the kite racers ready to take the Olympic spotlight.

I for one couldn’t be more happy for them (and Ive been racing windsurfers competitively since the early 90’s- getting on the bus late but nonetheless enjoying the ride.)
It’s their time to shine so why not embrace it vs fighting it.
28 years of Windsurfing as an Olympic sport 1984-2012 is not a bad run.
Other classes have come and gone from the Olympics with the sailors having made large investments in their skill sets for that class. They had to move on.
The skills in windsurfing will translate to other classes (including kiteboarding) when it comes to course racing.

Windsurfing’s been dying a slow death since it’s peak in mid 90’s.

Sure some racing classes have succeeded- t293, rsx, pwa, raceboard, formula but you see what’s happening. The sports become diluted with so many choices, including kiting which has taken a big piece of the pie from windsurfing in the past 5-10 years. While not entirely agreeing that the RS-X is the best format for the Olympics- I have tremendous respect for the guys sailing that class- they are the most fit athletes in the sailing discipline and probably the entire Olympics.

The fact remain – the Olympics can only be so big – while it would be great to see both classes in 2016- there remains room for only 1.
The kiteboard, on the other hand has had a tremendous evolution with windsurfing paving the way for it’s success. The 1st World Championships in kite boarding course racing were held in San Francisco in 2007 and since then the sport has blossomed. It has evolved and continues to change more than any other form of sailing. I just hope that what’s make it so successful isn’t ruined by the forces at ISAF. Learn from the RS-X’s mistakes and success’s and blaze on!

The way I look at the decision is that its actually good for windsurfing- at least in the US.

The Olympics has been a hard call for us in the US- getting funding to support an international campaign from an organization that does not believe in us (rightly so as they’re job is to win medals and we have a very bleak chance at that.) At the last trials we had 2 men and 1 women vying for the US Olympic windsurfing spot. At the 96 trials we had 40+.
We’ve got several of the top 10 in the world in kite boarding and even the top 2 so for the US the decision was right. We’ll get more funding with more medals. A win/win for US Sailing Team.

Now with RSX out, the windsurfing world of racing wont be as compromised as before with so many classes for sailors to choose from.
I see it as a win win for the formula class as the rsx’ers have a choice to either continue racing in a high performance windsurfing class or join the kiting fleet.
The formula class is bound to absorb some of those sailors.
The kiting class will benefit from the all the top racers coming in from the RS-X class.

As I understand, the exact discipline for kiting has not yet been selected. That decision will potentially be made in November or after next years Olympics. Most likely it will be racing as that’s the format they loved so much at last months kite evaluation trials in Spain.
There’s also a chance ISAF could reverse their decision in November with a 2/3 majority voting for windsurfing if that decision gets to the table. There’s a petition by the rsx sailors to do this already.
The technical report from the evaluation trials can be found here.

In fact kite racing takes the same format as formula windsurfing in terms of an open one design class. They have a box rule for their boards (registered by isaf 50 board min production) and kites are limited to 3 per event.
We debated and tried having a formula windsurfing one design in the 2012 Games and came to the conclusion that once you’re there- they’re are many other interest controlling your fate, politics included and the class takes on a world of its own not necessarily in the sailors best interest. A double edged sword that’s tempting but often better left alone.

I’m still stoked on windsurfing and we had one of the most competitive regattas this past weekend on the San Francisco city front with 8 formula boards racing and overlaps at every mark and finish. But then I look over at the kiters with 20 kites (and averaging at least that in their weekly series where we can get 8-10 formula boards on our weekly series) and I ask myself what am I doing still racing windsurfers when the kiters have a bigger local fleet, more talent, more potential and now the Olympics. I’m excited to learn the sport and hopefully race with them if it all works out.

If you can’t beat em- join em!

Steve USA-4